Executive Functions Deficit in Mild Cognitive Impairment

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Abstract

Objective

To investigate whether patients diagnosed with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI) have also impairment in attention/executive functions, and therefore to clarify whether all subcomponents of executive control are equally affected in MCI.

Background

MCI refers to the transitional state between normal aging and dementia. Amnestic MCI is characterized by impaired episodic memory, although subtle impairment of executive functions has been noted on neuropsychologic tests.

Methods

We investigated 20 MCI patients and 20 normal controls using episodic memory, attention/executive functions, language, and praxis tests.

Results

MCI patients had significantly lower scores on all measures of the Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test (P<0.05 to 0.01) than controls. Furthermore, MCI had a greater number of perseverations (P<0.01) on Modified Card Sorting Test and the lowest performance on the Stroop Test (P<0.02).

Conclusions

Our findings showed impairment in episodic memory performance in MCI as compared with that of controls. In addition, MCI patients had problems with response inhibition, switching, and cognitive flexibility, which encompass various aspects of executive functions. This suggests that MCI may be identified by using a more detailed procedure for the assessment of cognitive decline than the evaluation of memory alone.

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